Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ode on Grecian 2000

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.' These words from Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn have always held uncomfortable memories. Far from associating them with fine pottery and the British Museum, I recall a rather gawky deputy head at my secondary school prone to uttering them, apropos de nada, at the end of assembly. I suppose that was a hint that it was never going to be that clear cut.

The findings of last year’s YouGov survey that showed more than half of British women and a quarter of teenage boys would consider having cosmetic surgery, leave me confused as to whether beauty and truth have any relationship at all. Sounds more like a bold-faced lie to me. That there is a ‘beauty industry’ would tend it towards tarnish, would it not? I googled ‘truth industry’ just in case I’d slept through a revolution and I’m pleased to report that there are only two entries directly linking these words. It can only be a matter of time.

You hear alarming figures like one in four women in Britain have had a cosmetic procedure. Do I know any of these women? When a friend comes back from two weeks in Spain looking really well, can I assume that smile on her face is the work of a surgeon and not the rejuvenating effects of sun, sex and sangria? I do know people who’ve had their varicose veins done and I’ve got dental crowns. Do these count? If not, I can only think of one person who has had gratuitous enhancement - my hairdresser, who at 22 had her boobs done.

To me, a boob job is a fumble beside the university lake between classes before you get, you know, serious. When I buy my weekly lottery ticket I’m not thinking, ‘I’ll get my waddle done when I win.’ I’ll admit I have my hair coloured. There are two very good reasons. I enjoy the salon experience (especially since Tessa’s boob job), and I have a big grey patch at the back of my head. The last thing I want is for someone to open a conversation with me at a party thus, ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve got a large grey patch at the back of your head and I find that absolutely fascinating…’

There is a relationship between pampering yourself and feeling good which I do understand. I did, after all spend my 40th at the Marbella Health Spa getting mineral salt wraps and collagen facials. All that does is make you think you look better and you then reflect that onto the world and, what can I say, other people are so gullible. You can get cosmetic surgery on BUPA. It’s like having your tonsils out, only pretending that they’re on the outside.

Marbella is the hub of cosmetic surgery. Some 350,000 operations are carried out each year in Spain. Scalpels, general anaesthetic, those broken lines and arrows they draw all over you with black marking pen. (Does that come off by the way?) People! Throw out your mirrors if having a crumply face is standing between you and eternal happiness. As with any surgical procedure there are risks. Last year Stella Obasanjo, wife of the Nigerian Prime Minister died from complications after plastic surgery in a Marbella clinic. Would I risk my life to eliminate cellulite and chicken neck? Not on your wannabe aquiline schnauzer!

PS. I would consider relaxing my disapproval in Roger Federer’s case.

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